While many traditional automotive communities continue to lose jobs and population, Kokomo, once described by Forbes as one of America’s "fastest-dying cities," is showing signs of bucking that trend. In the midst of unprecedented investment in its downtown, Kokomo saw an increase, albeit a small one, in population from 2016 to 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Forecasts have suggested the city could lose as much as 2 percent of its population annually. "A lot of it has to do with our strategic investments," said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, who notes Bloomberg recently ranked the city as having the third-best jobs improvement in the country since the recession, when local unemployment topped 20 percent. Goodnight calls the turnaround a team effort. "Our private business, our large employers, have doubled down and stuck with Kokomo and invested and Indiana University Kokomo and our local school systems have really put together a quality product for young people."
In an interview on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick, Goodnight talked about a resurgence he feels is just beginning.
While the Kokomo economy remains heavily dependent on manufacturing, there are signs of diversity in the city’s business mix to include companies focused on advanced industries.
AndyMark Inc. is a robotics parts supplier that distributes to more than 70 countries from its Kokomo headquarters and is in the midst of a $1.5 million expansion expected to add 30 jobs over three years.
Green Cubes Technology develops and manufactures advanced battery power systems and is building a 20,000 square foot facility at its Kokomo headquarters, with plans to add more than 70 jobs. The company says the city’s robust engineering talent pipeline was a major factor in its expansion decision.
To keep and attract talent needed to fuel the local economy, the third-term Democrat mayor has designs on doubling down on his quality of place investment strategy.
In his spring State of the City address, Goodnight announced plans for improvements along Wildcat Creek, a new dog park near the Industrial Heritage Trail, a new transit city and a downtown hotel and conference center.
"We all know that it’s all about talent attraction, and that relates to quality of place" said Goodnight. "And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do, create the best place for people to live, and I think it’s happening and it’s working.”